Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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CHAPTER IV. 8.4.1

MESSENIA is continuous with the Eleian territory, incline. ing for the most part towards the south, and the Libyan Sea. Being part of Laconia, it was subject in the Trojan times to Menelaus. The name of the country was Messene. But the present city called Messene, the acropolis of which was Ithome, was not then founded. After the death of Menelaus, when the power of those who succeeded to the possession of Laconia was altogether weakened, the Neleidæ governed Messenia. At the time of the return of the Heracleidæ, and according to the partition of the country at that time, Melanthus was king of the Messenians, who were a separate community, but formerly subject to Menelaus. As a proof of this, in the space from the Messenian Gulf and the continuous gulf, (called the Asinæan from the Messenian Asine,) were situated the seven cities which Agamemnon promised to Achilles; Cardamyle, Enope, the grassy Hira, the divine Pheræ, [Note] Antheia with rich meadows, the beautiful æpeia, and Pedasus abounding with vines. [Note] He certainly would not have promised what did not belong either to himself or to his brother. The poet mentions those, who accompanied Menelaus from Pheræ to the war, [Note] and speaks of (Œtylus) in the Laconian catalogue, a city situated on the Gulf of Messenia.

Messene follows next to Triphylia. The promontory, after which are the Coryphasium and Cyparissia, is common to both. At the distance of 7 stadia is a mountain, the ægaleum, situated above Coryphasium and the sea. 8.4.2

The ancient Messenian Pylus was a city lying below the ægaleum, and after it was razed, some of the inhabitants settled under the Coryphasium. But the Athenians in their second expedition against Sicily, under the command of Eurymedon and Stratocles, got possession of it, and used it as a stronghold against the Lacedæmonians. [Note] Here also is the Messenian Cyparissia, (and the island Prote,) lying close

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to Pylus, the island Sphagia, called also Sphacteria. It was here that the Lacedæmonians lost three hundred men, [Note] who were besieged by the Athenians and taken prisoners.

Two islands, called Strophades, [Note] belonging to the Cy- parissii, lie off at sea in front of this coast, at the distance of about 400 stadia from the continent, in the Libyan and southern sea. According to Thucydides this Pylus was the naval station of the Messenians. It is distant from Sparta 400 stadia. 8.4.3

Next is Methone. [Note] This city, called by the poet Pedasus, was one of the seven, it is said, which Agamemnon promised to Achilles. There Agrippa killed, in the Actian war, Bogus, the king of the Maurusii, a partisan of Antony's, having got possession of the place by an attack by sea 8.4.4

Continuous with Methone is Acritas, [Note] where the Messenian Gulf begins, which they call also Asinæus from Asine, a small city, the first we meet with on the gulf, and having the same name as the Hermionic Asine.

This is the commencement of the gulf towards the west. Towards the east are the Thyrides, [Note] as they are called, bordering upon the present Laconia near Cænepolis, [Note] and Tænarum.

In the intervening distance, if we begin from the Thyrides, we meet with Œtylus, [Note] by some called Beitylus; then Leuctrum, a colony of the Leuctri in Bœotia; next, situated upon a steep rock, Cardamyle; [Note] then Pheræ, bordering upon Thu- ria, and Gerenia, from which place they say Nestor had the epithet Gerenian, because he escaped thither, as we have mentioned before. They show in the Gerenian territory a temple of æsculapius Triccæus, copied from that at the Thessalian Tricca. Pelops is said to have founded Leuctrum, and Charadra, and Thalami, now called the Bœotian Thalami, having brought with him, when he married his sister Niob to Amphion, some colonists from Bœotia.

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The Nedon, a different river from the Neda, flows through Laconia, and discharges its waters near Pheræ. It has upon its banks a remarkable temple of the Nedusian Minerva. At Pœaessa also there is a temple of the Nedusian Minerva, which derives its name from a place called Nedon, [Note] whence, they say, Teleclus colonized Pœaessa, [Note] and Echeiæ, and Tragium. 8.4.5

With respect to the seven cities promised to Achilles, we have already spoken of Cardamyle, and Pheræ, and Pedasus. Enope, some say is Pellana; others, some place near Cardamyle; others, Gerenia. [Note] Hira is pointed out near a mountain in the neighbourhood of Megalopolis [Note] in Arcadia, on the road to Andania, which we have said is called by the poet Œchalia. Others say that the present Mesola was called Hira, which extends to the bay situated between Taÿgetum and Messenia. æpeia is now called Thuria, which we said bordered upon Pheræ. It is situated upon a lofty hill, whence its name. [Note] The Thuriatic Gulf has its name from Thuria; upon the gulf is a single city, named Rhium, opposite Tenarum. Some say that Antheia is Thuria, and æpeia Methone; others, that Antheia is Asine, situated between Methone and Thuria, to which, of all the Messenian cities, the description, with its rich pastures, is most appropriate. Near it on the sea is Corone. There are some writers who say that this town is called Pedasus by the poet. These cities are all near the sea; Cardamyle close to it; Pheræ at the distance of 5 stadia, having an anchorage, which is used in the summer. The rest are situated at unequal distances from the sea. 8.4.6

Near Corone, about the middle of the gulf, the river Pamisus [Note] discharges itself, having, on the right hand, this city, and the rest in succession, the last of which, towards the west, are Pylus and Cyparissia, and between these is Erana, which some writers erroneously suppose to be the ancient

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Arene; on the left hand it has Thyria and Pheræ. It is the largest (in width) of the rivers within the isthmus, although its course from its springs does not exceed 100 stadia in length; it has an abundant supply of water, and traverses the Messenian plain, and the district called Macaria. [Note] It is distant from the present city of the Messenians 50 stadia. [Note] There is also another Pamisus, a small torrent stream, running near Leuctrum of Laconia, which was a subject of dispute between the Messenians and Lacedæmonians in the time of Philip.

I have before said that some persons called the Pamisus, Amathus. [Note] 8.4.7

Ephorus relates that Cresphontes, after he had taken Messene, divided it into five cities, and chose Stenyclarus, situated in the middle of this district, to be the royal seat of his kingdom. To the other cities, Pylus, Rhium, (Mesola,) and Hyameitis, he appointed kings, and put all the Messenians on an equal footing with the Dorians as to rights and privileges. The Dorians, however, taking offence, he changed his intention, and determined that Stenyclarus alone should have the rank of a city, and here he assembled all the Dorians. 8.4.8

The city of the Messenians [Note] resembles Corinth, for above each city is a lofty and precipitous mountain, enclosed by a common wall in such a manner as to be used as an acropolis; the Messenian mountain is Ithome, [Note] that near Corinth is Acrocorinthus. Demetrius of Pharos seemed to have counselled Philip the son of Demetrius well, when he advised him to make himself master of both cities, if he desired to get possession of Peloponnesus; for, said he, when you have seized both horns, the cow will be your own; meaning, by the horns, Ithome and Acrocorinthus, and, by the cow, Peloponnesus. It was no doubt their convenient situation which made these cities subjects of contention. The Romans therefore razed Corinth, and again rebuilt it. The Lacedæmonians

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destroyed Messene, and the Thebans, and subsequently Philip, the son of Amyntas, restored it. The citadels however continued unoccupied. 8.4.9

The temple of Diana in Limnæ (in the Marshes), where the Messenians are supposed to have violated the virgins who came there to offer sacrifice, is on the confines of Laconia and Messenia, where the inhabitants of both countries usually celebrated a common festival, and performed sacrifices; but after the violation of the virgins, the Messenians did not make any reparation, and war, it is said, ensued. The Limnæan temple of Diana at Sparta is said to have its name from the Limnæ here. 8.4.10

There were frequent wars (between the Lacedæmonians and Messenians) on account of the revolts of the Messenians. Tyrtæus mentions, in his poems, that their first subjugation was in the time of their grandfathers; [Note] the second, when in conjunction with their allies the Eleians [Arcadians], Argives, and Pisatæ, they revolted; the leader of the Arcadians was Aristocrates, king of Orchomenus, and of the Pisatæ, Pantaleon, son of Omphalion. In this war, Tyrtæus says, he himself commanded the Lacedæmonian army, for in his elegiac poem, entitled Eunomia, he says he came from Erineum; for Jupiter himself, the son of Saturn, and husband of Juno with the beautiful crown, gave this city to the Heracleidæ, with whom we left the windy Erineum, and arrived at the spacious island of Pelops. Wherefore we must either invalidate the authority of the elegiac verses, or we must disbelieve Philochorus, and Callisthenes, and many other writers, who say that he came from Athens, or Aphidnæ, at the request of the Lacedæmonians, whom an oracle had enjoined to receive a commander from the Athenians.

The second war then occurred in the time of Tyrtæus. But they mention a third, and even a fourth war, in which the Messenians were destroyed. [Note]

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The whole voyage along the Messenian coast comprises about 800 stadia, including the measurement of the bays. 8.4.11

I have exceeded the limits of moderation in this description, by attending to the multitude of facts which are related of a country, the greatest part of which is deserted. Even Laconia itself is deficient in population, if we compare its present state with its ancient populousness. For, with the exception of Sparta, the remaining small cities are about thirty; but, anciently, Laconia had the name of Hecatompolis, and that for this reason hecatombs were annually sacrificed.



Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 8.3 Str. 8.4 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 8.5

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